Draft Riots: Review Background Information

The patriotic fervor and desire to serve in the army that marked the early days of the war has faded. Volunteers are in short supply and resistance to state drafts is mounting. To maintain the Union Army’s strength, Congress in March 1863 imposes a national draft, the first in our nation’s history. Reaction is violent. That July in New York, a week of rioting claims more than 100 lives and destroys buildings and property.

Some of my Democratic opponents say conscription, forced military service, is unconstitutional, and the draft law is unfair. But how is the Union to be saved if we cannot maintain a capable fighting force?

Name of Person 1

Horatio Seymour
(1810-1886)

Lawyer, Democratic governor of New York. He was opposed to the Emancipation Proclamation, the draft, and the Administration’s encroachments on civil liberties, including the arrest of Clement Vallandingham.

Name of Person 1

Edwin Stanton (1814-1869)

Lawyer, member of Lincoln’s cabinet. A leading Democrat, he was appointed US Attorney General by President Buchanan in 1860. He replaced Lincoln’s controversial first Secretary of War Simon Cameron in 1862 . President Grant later appointed Stanton to the Supreme Court, but he died four days after being confirmed.

Let Supreme Court Decide

“The right of this Government to enforce military service in any other mode than that pointed out by the Constitution cannot be established by a violent enforcement of the Statute. It should be determined by the judiciary, in advance of any enforcement which must be destructive to so many lives.”

The Draft is Constitutional

“It is absolutely necessary that efficient means be taken, with vigor and promptness, to keep the army up to its strength, and supply deficiencies occasioned by the losses sustained by casualties in the field. To the end resort must be had to a draft.”

So I must decide – do I appease Seymour and wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Conscription Act, or do I press ahead in the face of resistance from the nation’s most populous and important state? What should I do?